Table of Contents, Robert's Rules of Order Resources Page
Previous Section, Robert's Rules of Order Next Section, Robert's Rules of Order

Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

Article 11-B. Nominations And Elections

66 A. Nominations

66 B. Conducting Elections


Your organization needs officers, maybe committee members, and other positions decided by a vote of the membership. Robert's Rules sets out several methods of making nominations for positions:

An organization can nominate candidates in several ways:

Nominations By The Chair

This method is used whenever the membership wants to rely on the presiding officer to recommend candidates but also wants to reserve for itself (or its designee, such as the board of directors) the approval of the nominee. This method is applicable when

Nominations From The Floor

Sometimes called open nominations, this method is probably the most familiar. It's used in the vast majority of situations in which members elect their officers at a meeting. Your group's rules and customs determine when floor nominations are accepted. Sometimes nominations aren't taken until the election is pending, and sometimes they're taken at other times, such as at a meeting before the election meeting.

The process of making floor nominations is subject to the following rules:

Motions to close nominations are usually unnecessary because the nomination process simply continues until no one wishes to make further nominations. When the nominations stop, the chair just declares nominations closed after making sure that no more nominations are forthcoming. Customarily (although it's not required), the chair accomplishes this by calling three times for more nominations.

According to Robert's Rules, a motion to close nominations is out of order as long as any member wishes to make a nomination.

Nominations By A Committee

Using a nominating committee to assemble a list of willing and qualified candidates for office can greatly benefit members when the time comes to select their leaders. If the committee does its job well, the membership can enjoy some basic assurance that the candidates nominated have at least expressed interest in the job, have agreed to serve, and are qualified for the offices for which they're nominated.

The Nominating Committee's Role

The duty of a nominating committee is to find the best candidate for each office. The bylaws should not tie the hands of the committee to find more than one person to fill each slot; the committee should find the best candidate for each office. Persons serving on the committee can be nominated for office.

The secretary should give the committee a copy of the membership list, the bylaws, a description of the duties of each office, and the eligibility requirements. The committee must carefully review the eligibility requirements for each office and see that the nominees meet these requirements. If anyone is elected, and it is discovered after the election that the person is not eligible, the election of that officer is null and void. The committee then has to find a new nominee, and the members have to vote again.

The committee should meet, carefully review the membership list, and select the people who they think will do the best job in each office. A member of the committee should then be designated to call each nominee to see if he or she is willing to serve if elected. If someone is not willing to serve, the committee needs to meet again and find another candidate.

If no candidate is found, the committee can leave that slot open for nominations from the floor. Or, they can tell members publicly that they do not have a nominee for a certain office; this allows members to volunteer. No one should be nominated without his or her consent because, if elected, the person may decline to serve and members will have to hold another election.

A Nominating Committee's Report

The report of the nominating committee is usually given under "special orders." When called on to give the report, the chairman of the nominating committee states the nominations for each office.

Chairman of Nominating Committee: Madam President, the nominating committee submits the following nominations: for president, Alex Shaw; for vice president, Bianca Fernandez; for secretary, Raymond Platt; and for treasurer, Donna Agnese.

Sometimes there is a split in the nominating committee over who to nominate. If a minority of the committee wishes to nominate someone else, the members in the minority can make the nomination when nominations are taken from the floor.

As soon as the committee reports, it is discharged from its duties. Sometimes the committee is revived to make nominations to fill vacancies. After the committee reports, the chair states:

President: The nominating committee nominates Alex Shaw for president, Bianca Fernandez for vice president, Raymond Platt for secretary, and Donna Agnese for treasurer. Nominations are now open from the floor. Are there any further nominations for president?

Nominations By Ballot

This method of nominations is based on the principle of allowing all voters to make nominations for all offices by completing a nominating ballot. The ballots are tallied very much like an election ballot, and the report becomes the list of nominees for each office. This method gives voters an idea of the group's preferences without holding an actual election.

Nominations By Mail

Taking nominations by mail is basically the same as taking nominations by ballot. Take security measures to protect the privacy of the nominating ballot; each member is instructed to fold his or her ballot inside a signed envelope and mail it back in an outer envelope. When the nominating ballot is received, the signed inner envelope containing the ballot is logged in against a list of voting members, and the ballot is deposited in a receptacle for tallying like an election ballot.

Nominations By Petition

Some organizations add nominees to the ballot only if the name is submitted on a petition signed by some minimum number of members. Nomination by petition is another method of nomination by mail; provisions must be made for it in the bylaws, and standard forms must be provided to candidates and electors upon request.

Motions Related To Nominations

Whenever you need to specify a way to come up with nominees, as you probably will for situations your bylaws don't cover, you use a motion related to the method of nominations. And whenever you want to specify when nominations can be made, you use a motion to open or close nominations. Collectively, these motions are known as motions related to nominations.

A motion relating to nominations

Method Of Nominations

This example is based on moving to have nominations by committee, but the form is essentially the same for any of the methods.

You simply say, "Mr. Chairman, I move that the chair appoint a committee of three to consider and make recommendations on the replacement of Mr. Exeter, who has resigned as chairman of the membership committee." Whatever nomination method you propose, be specific.

Motions To Open Or Close Nominations

A motion to open nominations, when made by a member, is usually a motion to reopen nominations after they have been closed. (The chair usually just announces the opening of nominations at the appointed time when they are in order.)

Members rarely make a motion to close nominations because it's never in order to make this motion as long as anyone wants to make a nomination. Also, members rarely move to close nominations because, whenever no further nominations are offered, the chair usually just declares, "Hearing no further nominations, nominations for the office of [name the office] are closed."

Nominations And The Minutes

The secretary places all nominations in the minutes. If the organization uses a nominating committee and then takes nominations from the floor, the secretary records the nominating committee's report first and then lists nominations for each office in the order they are presented as given by the members from the floor.


The election process may be the easiest part of deciding who handles a particular job in the organization. Robert's Rules on elections are very straightforward after what is often a politically charged prequel of nominating and campaigning.

An election is really nothing more than the handling of an assumed motion, with the question being on whom to elect to fill a position. Like any incidental main motion, an election can be decided by voice vote or by ballot.

Electing By Ballot

Ballot voting is by far the surest way to allow for the free expression of the will of the membership. When holding ballot elections, you have two procedural options:

No matter which procedure you use, the order in which you take up each election is the order in which the offices are listed in your bylaws.

Voting by ballot enables a member to vote for a candidate not formally nominated by writing in a name — a write-in vote. A write-in vote is a legal vote unless it's unintelligible or cast for an unidentifiable or ineligible person or for a fictitious character, in which case it's counted as an illegal vote.

Ballot voting is the preferred voting method in situations in which knowing how all the members voted isn't desirable. You can use a ballot vote to decide either a motion or an election:

It's never in order to vote Yes or No (or For or Against) a candidate when electing persons to office. The only way you can vote against a candidate is to vote for another person.

Who Gets To Vote

Depending on your organization and the decisions being made, balloting may take place during a meeting, or polls may be open during polling periods including times when no meeting is in progress. In either case, you need to appoint reliable ballot counters to hand out and collect ballots and to count the votes.

Only members entitled to vote are given ballots or are allowed to deposit ballots with a ballot counter or place them in the ballot receptacle. If polling is conducted outside of a meeting, members should verify their credentials with election officials when casting their votes at the polls, and members' names should be checked on a list showing who has voted.

The presiding officer votes along with all the other members, although she is never allowed to cast a tie-breaker in a ballot vote.

A member has the right to vote until the polls are closed. A late-arriving member can vote only with other members' consent by majority vote.

Counting The Ballots

When counting ballots, ballot counters need to keep a few key points in mind:

After The Vote

After the votes are counted, the lead ballot counter reads aloud to the membership the complete report of the vote counts but doesn't declare the result. That job belongs to the presiding officer, who reads the report again to the members, concluding with a formal declaration of the result. The entire ballot counters' report should be included in the minutes of the meeting.

In determining how long to hold the ballots before destroying them, your main consideration is the possibility of needing a recount. After the period during which a recount can be conducted has passed, you don't need to keep the ballots. A decision on how long to keep them can be made at the meeting when the vote takes place, or a short retention period for ballots can be adopted as a standing rule.

Electing By Voice Vote

If your bylaws don't require you to conduct an election by ballot, and if candidates are unopposed or there's no major contest for an office, you can save time with a simple voice vote (or viva voce). After nominations are closed, the vote is taken on each nominee in the order in which they were nominated.

Because this form of voting favors one candidate over another based on the order of nomination, you should avoid using it except in mass meetings or when there's no serious contest for the office and a ballot is not required. If members don't understand exactly how it works, the ones whose preferred candidate doesn't get voted on are likely to think something is amiss.

Electing By Roll Call

If your assembly's members are accountable to a constituency, your rules may require you to conduct your elections by roll-call vote. You follow the same procedures for elections by ballot, as far as arriving at the point of the election is concerned, but instead of casting your vote by ballot, each member announces his vote when the secretary calls that person's name. The secretary repeats the vote after recording it, to ensure accuracy.

Determining Who Wins

Elections are decided by majority vote unless your bylaws provide differently. In a voice vote, the winner is easy to determine and the vote is over when someone wins the election. When it comes to ballot elections, your election isn't complete until a position is filled, and a position is never filled until a candidate receives the threshold number of votes required for election. In most cases, the threshold is a majority of the votes cast. If you have only two candidates and the vote is a tie, you repeat the balloting until one candidate receives a majority.

Balloting must continue until a candidate receives a majority. It's never proper to drop the candidates receiving the lowest vote totals from a ballot unless they withdraw voluntarily. That means run-offs are just plain out of order. The requirement for election by ballot is a majority, and a candidate has no obligation to withdraw just because he polls low numbers. Your members may wind up voting for Mr. Low as the compromise candidate.

Additional Points Concerning Elections

Here are some other things to consider during the election process:

Election Abnormalities

During an election, especially when ballot counters are not trained or when candidates are running in opposition, members may become aware of mistakes or illegal procedures in collecting or counting the ballots. If a member notices a mistake in procedure, he or she should immediately make the chair and assembly aware of his concerns.

The best thing an organization can do is adopt rules that tell how to proceed if a member challenges an election or if a person is illegally elected to office and has begun to serve. Rules may include how long the organization saves ballots and how long members can wait to challenge an election. These rules supersede the adopted parliamentary authority. It is important to remember that once someone is elected, the election can't be rescinded unless there is some provision for it in the bylaws. It is possible that because of a mistake in counting the ballots, or another procedural mistake, someone can be declared elected to office when he or she did not receive the majority votes. Organizations can create and write election rules to correct this mistake.

A common mistake in elections is having too many ballots cast for the number of members present. If this occurs and it does not affect the outcome of the vote, the election is still valid. Often the extra ballot comes from someone who has entered the assembly but has not signed in to the meeting.

Because fraud does happen in the election process, members need to be alert and watchful of the election process. Some practices to watch out for include:

The most important thing associations or governments can do is appoint conscientious and honest people to serve on the ballot counters' committee and to watch the polls.

Taking A Recount

If members question the validity of an election or the procedure in taking the vote, a member should make a motion to recount the votes within a reasonably brief time after the president announces the election outcome. The motion to have a vote for a particular office recounted needs a second, is not debatable, and takes a majority vote to adopt.

After the person elected to office assumes the position, it is too late to nullify an illegal election. For this reason, members should listen carefully to the report of the ballot counters' committee. If something doesn't quite add up, a member should question it during the meeting. If officers assume their duties immediately after the meeting is adjourned, it is then too late to question the election.

Undemocratic Practices In The Nomination And Election Processes

Members should be alert to some undemocratic political practices in organizations. One example occurs if a person is elected and then resigns, the office is considered vacant, and the president or board fills it by appointment instead of having another election. Doing this may allow an unpopular or hand-picked candidate to get the office even though he or she was not elected.

In writing the nomination, election, and vacancy conditions in the bylaws, the organization should make sure that if a vacancy is created early in the term of office, the vacancy is filled by election instead of by appointment, whenever possible. However, in some national organizations that meet yearly or biennially (every two years), this is difficult.

Another problematic practice to watch out for is nominating someone for office who is not eligible. When nominations are taken from the floor or when a nominating ballot is used, a good practice is to provide the members with an eligibility list so that they are not nominating people who will not be able to serve. When the secretary mails the members a notice about the nomination and election meeting, the letter can include a request that members who do not wish to be considered for office notify the secretary in writing. When the secretary prepares the eligibility list for the meeting, only those members who are willing to serve are on the list.

Westside Toastmasters on Meetup

Table of Contents, Robert's Rules of Order Resources Page
Previous Section, Robert's Rules of Order Next Section, Robert's Rules of Order